City Builder: A Guide to Designing Communities is a detailed and comprehensive book on creating communities, from small plantations to large cities. It can be used for most role playing games with a bias towards historically-based or low fantasy settings. While GMs of pseudo-historical games might be in the best position to use the book as-is, every GM interested in community building should get this book. For high-fantasy GMs, the supplement provides tips for making the world seem real and gives a number of interesting locales for inspiration.
The first chapter focuses on defining the community types likely to be found in ancient, medieval and fantasy settings. The descriptions include information on the structure of the community in terms of professions likely found there, likely subdivisions and common governmental structures. Beyond these descriptions, the chapter also provides detailed information on the types of buildings, law enforcement, and fortifications common to many communities and information on treating the urban environment in a 3-dimensional manner.
One of the more interesting sections is the one on disasters. Not only does it give examples of different disasters that may befall a community, but it explains how they might affect the various groups of people within such as craftsmen and merchants.
Subsequent chapters cover groups of locations with the division based on the purpose of the establishment such as craftsman, entertainment, scholarly and underworld. For each group, the book provides a number of example locations with a fair amount of description and insight into where such locations might appear. In addition, suggestions are given in regards to the people likely to be found there including their level of profession and races. Also included are the types of goods and services commonly available, the level of security one would expect for such a location and a number of adventure hooks for integrating it into a game.
The appendices contain more detailed instructions for creating two types of locations, guilds and inns and taverns, complete with random tables for generation. The section on guilds also includes a list of common guild regulations and the one for inns and taverns focuses on the patronage of such places as well.
As a relatively new game master, I steal my towns from whatever sources I can. I definitely will use this supplement to me build my own communities in the future. Even for those who prefer more fantastical settings, this book still provides lots of useful details for making the location feel integrated into the world. The descriptions and real-world examples are excellent and I feel confident that any location I choose will fit with my players’ expectations of the world. Also, I can see myself using it during a game session when my players want to go off the beaten path.
The only downside to the book is that it is easy to get lost in the details. Summary charts for all the locations with a list of likely community types, rarity, and other such information would be a welcome addition. Overall, it’s a great tool for newer game masters and likely to give even veterans some new ideas.